Omni-channel’s Day is Soon Arriving in B2B Integration

Omni-channel marketing, ubiquitous now in business, has been an important component of marketplace visibility. Those challenges have mostly been shouldered by retailers in the past, but have now become a priority in B2B integration.

Beyond its role as a buzzword, omni-channel is the concept of operationalizing customer viewpoint across transaction processing. It allows for more effective market segmentation and customer profiling, and the fine-tuning of demand and response – all primarily marketing concerns.

But omni-channel’s core principles – continuity in cross-channel execution, and data consolidation across channels – are perhaps even more central to B2B integration than to marketing. Removing inefficiencies in data is central to B2B integration, and data consolidation aids significantly in that effort. And omni-channel implementation encourages the streamlining of process, which is just as important.

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Social Media Can Drive the B2B-CRM Connection

The role of social media in B2B relationships has been vague at best as it has taken root, surfacing primarily as an external influence to supply chain operations. Primarily, social media can affect consumer demand, which in turn impacts the entire supply chain.

But a more tangible effect and connection exist between social media and CRM. Social media has taken its place as a CRM driver in the past few years, and when exploited can lead to higher customer satisfaction – which leads to more frequent purchasing, also a supply-chain-global effect. Predictive analytics, fast becoming ubiquitous in supply chain planning, rely deeply upon CRM, strengthening the connection between social media and B2B.

How can supply chain managers take the initiative, and employ social media more directly? By leveraging social media’s impact on consumer demand through social media monitoring tools, and using the data for assortment planning.

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The Rise of APIs for B2B Integration

APIs are everywhere. Companies are exposing APIs to generate new revenue streams. By exposing applications and data to the outside world via APIs, companies can monetize their existing IT infrastructure. That means they can generate additional revenue without significant investment.

Netflix has over 100,000 DVD titles that it exposes through APIs for integration with over 200 devices, including several type of mobile devices. By delivering data through APIs, Netflix not only created a new revenue stream but also became a leader in this category. Stripe is a new start up which processes payments and exposes its services via an API suite. APIs are at the front, right and center of business model transformations happening today.

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The Value-Added Network is All But Gone from the B2B Supply Chain Toolkit

Since Wal-Mart moved away from value-added networks for B2B document exchange in 2003, the death of traditional VANs has been inevitable. Predictions of the extinction of the VAN have appeared steadily ever since.

The remaining players have been gobbled up in a flurry of acquisitions in recent years: Inovis, for instance, was purchased by GXS, which was in turn purchased by Open Text. A few are surviving through adaptation, such as Covisint, which caters largely to the healthcare industry and is high-teching into non-traditional territory (the cloud, identity management as a service).

The VAN has died slowly because traditional EDI has died slowly. That slow death has derived from the lack of a clear successor technology. XML has long been touted as the natural heir for B2B data exchange and systems integration, and with the rapid proliferation of web services, it is now ubiquitous.

The advent of AS4, the web service-friendly successor to AS2 (EDI’s Internet-based innovation), closes the gap for EDI-dependent B2B partners seeking to shed the expense and trouble of VAN data transport, by simplifying web service-based data exchange implementations and enhancing endpoint availability robustness.

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